Neurotransmitters #1: Gamma-Aminobutyric Acids

What is GABA?

GABA, shorthand for Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid or γ-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter (something that helps enable communication in the brain– important).

It’s classified as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which alludes to its calming effects on an overstimulated brain.

At lower, insufficient levels, you can experience migraines and insomnia, and in the presence of a serious GABA deficiency: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy.

Suffice it to say, GABA is a major neurotransmitter to know in order to help you understand how to be optimally relaxed and well.

A sufficient level of GABA is crucial for your wellbeing as it promotes the following functions:

Movement

Posture

Regulating Anxiety, by slowing down our reaction to stress

Motor Control

Vision

Reduced blood pressure

While it does facilitate great motor movement, for our intents we’re going to talk about how it helps helps people regulate anxiety.

Not familiar with it?:

You might have heard of GABA being marketed by brands in the ingestible and supplements space. Interestingly, live to date, there is insufficient data supporting any claim that GABA supplements are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and have an affect on your brain and on your GABA level. Please also note that manufacturers are not required to provide evidence supporting the efficacy of their products as long as they make no claims with regard to potential benefits in relation to specific diseases or conditions.
Ahem.

There are however, some easy dietary hacks that can help increase and support the maintenance of healthy GABA levels in your body. You can incorporate household diet staples such as green tea, black tea, & oolong tea, kefir, and yogurt into your diet. For the more devoted, here are some additional plants or minerals to consider adding to your diet to affect and raise your GABA level:

  • Valerian (hello, “Valerian root”! The flower or the flower based extract is cited in numerous homeopathic remedies; also used most notably to help with insomnia)
  • Magnesium (tofu, spinach, almond, avocado, dark chocolate, bananas)
  • Ginseng
  • Chamomile
  • Skullcap (a flowering plant in the mint family; also present in First Milk, our face mask – Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract)
  • Passionflower
  • Ashwagandha
  • Tempeh

While there are inherited disorders that result in an imbalance in GABA for some, lifestyle is most certainly a major influencer on the brain levels of GABA in most.

So as important as going on Web MD or going to your physician, examine yourself and your lifestyle. You’ll be able to make some immediate adjustments there if you feel an imbalance in mood.

By Susan Im

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